Tuesday, May 16, 2006


The President on Immigration

The President gave his speech on immigration last night, and effectively charted out what is being widely described as the “middle ground.”

While I may find common cause with Conservatives on virtually everything else on the political plate, I will not be joining the “Impeach Bush on Immigration” ravings of many of my erstwhile like-minded right-side bloggers. If you want to wallow in the fury, go read somebody else. They’ll be easy to find.

I’m usually not a big fan of “middle ground” if finding the middle means compromising away essential values or goals. In this case, I’m not so sure middle ground doesn’t mean, best comprehensive solution. Maybe not without some tweaking, adjustment, additions and deletions, but weighing advantages and disadvantages with full awareness of what is possible.

Rhetorically, from a statement of principles, you couldn’t get much closer to the essence of the American experiment, now 230 years old and counting. One might condense the President’s vision as: “the value of immigrants, the necessity of law.”

Here’s how he introduces his two themes:

Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, it strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities. These are real problems. Yet we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives. They are a part of American life, but they are beyond the reach and protection of American law.

We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. We will fix the problems created by illegal immigration, and we will deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair. So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will accomplish five clear objectives.

Objective One: Border Security

First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security.

The specifics of what President Bush means by Border Security:

  1. Fences, barriers, sensors, cameras, UAVs
  2. More border patrol
  3. Temporary National Guard support (6,000 strong) for Border Patrol
  4. Federal funding for state and local law enforcement
  5. Detention facilities and the end of “catch and release”

Objective Two: Temporary Worker Program

Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.

Objective Three: Worker ID Card

Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees because of the widespread problem of document fraud.

Objective Four: Path to Citizenship

Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.

I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.

Objective Five: Assimilation

Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams, they renew our spirit, and they add to the unity of America.

Something to aggravate everyone, I suppose, but a “reality-based” set of solutions (to borrow from the Opposition). And more honest that anything any politician has said recently on the subject.

Richard Reeb evaluates President Bush’s Reluctant Speech on immigration over at the Claremont Institute, and uses the speech as the basis for a primer in good citizenship:

Still more critical than enforcement of the laws and digesting the massive wave of illegal immigration is the requirement of good citizenship. Between lax enforcement and the reigning cult of multiculturalism, this is no mean task. Hence, even legal paths to citizenship are less than encouraging because of massive failures of citizenship education, which is bad enough among native-born Americans. Years of attacks on our founding principles, patriotism, self government, free enterprise, family and public morality have exacted a heavy price. The crisis of both illegal and legal immigration is a symptom (although a big enough problem in its own right) of the decline of American citizenship, with its burdens as well as it benefits. Liberalism has succeeded in defining citizenship down like everything else it has touched. It has corrupted the public mind to such an extent that we as American citizens are practically obliged to ignore public indignities like the May 1 boycott and to open our wallets to every demand on them from designated victims already within our borders or soon to come.

And yet, Reeb sees this speech and the vision it presents as a good start:

The President's speech did not and could not please everyone, but it is a good place to start. To my knowledge, no president has ever spoken as honestly and as frankly as President Bush on this issue.

Dafydd at Big Lizards predicts that border enforcement will be uneven and may require some additional political play to improve results. Dafydd also says we need to think of a dam, with and without a spillway, for the correct analogy to immigration:

So you read it here first: I predict that no matter how much the feds call for state National Guard units to deploy on the border, California, Arizona, and New Mexico will not play along... at least not to the extent that Bush envisions.

Still, some is better than none; I'm sure he'll get cooperation from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. I have no idea what Gov. Blanco of Louisiana will do: she's a liberal, but LA blacks are not exactly pro-illegal-immigration; and of course, she wants lots of federal aid -- so maybe Congress could include a federal-funding stick for non-complying states to go along with any carrots that are offered in the way of federal help to local law enforcement that works with federal cops on illegal immigration.

He discussed the guest-worker program and "normalization" of those illegals already here; and I was very pleased that he made quite a point of connecting these to border security. He hasn't read Big Lizards enough, or else he would have used my phrase: there is no wall so strong that a million people pushing won't knock it down.

But he did say that there are so many people desperate to come here that a wall and enforcement, no matter how strong, cannot keep them out. That it's imperative to reduce the number of folks trying to get in here illegally... and the only way to do that is to give them a legal way of doing so. (He also failed to use my analogy of a dam, with and without a spillway. His people really do need to get in touch with my people!)

AJ Strata wisely advises that right-thinking Americans have much to be thankful for, starting with gratitude for this President:

Today conservatives and Americans across this nation, especially those who voted for George W Bush, should be thankful for what we have accomplished and for having George Bush as President. My tolerance for the whiners who don’t get all they want, or who say the pace of getting America to become more responsive to conservative ideas is too slow, is totally used up. Tonight, when George Bush speaks he is going to discuss how we can take SOME steps towards getting a handle on immigration and the security threats it represents.

Other Links: Gateway Pundit, Decision '08, Blue Crab Boulevard, Security Watchtower

Links: Mudville Gazette, Blogotional

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